During the thousand years of history preceding the arrival of European settlers, the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island was populated from the North by Polynesian colonists who are known today as the Maori peoples.
The first wave of this colonisation was the Waitaha peoples who were engulfed in the late fifteenth century by the Ngati Mamoe. They in turn were progressively conquered from the late eighteenth century by the Ngati Tahu.
Godley Head was known to the Maori as Awaroa, a name which refers to the length and height of the entrance to Lyttelton Harbour. The land behind the headland was known as Mahoenui, referring to the large Mahoe (a large shrub) which grew there. The French vessel Le Rhin mapped the Head as Kotoki-toki in 1844, also it has also been called Otokitoki, however this second name was used to refer to the general area of Gollans Bay.
While the area of Lyttelton Harbour has maintained a reasonably small but stable Maori population, Godley Head itself has had no recognised settlement. This is probably accounted for by its exposed position, lack of fresh water and no easy access to the seashore.